Sport Rangers are primed to stretch Celtic title margin thanks in part to abject failures from Hibs and Aberdeen - Hugh Keevins
Celtic are Raiders of the Lost Spark while Rangers are bringing blockbusters to Scotland - Hugh Keevins
The carefully-chosen words from Ibrox symbolise a club that knows they are moving in an upwardly-mobile direction while their greatest rivals have hit difficulties. Rangers could pick two entirely different teams to play Brighton and Real Madrid within the space of 48 hours later this month because they have assembled that level of strength in depth. Celtic are 10 days away from a Champions League qualifier against FC Midtjylland in what could be described as a state of uncertainty. They have tested positive for confusion, on and off the park.
If I was able to gather enough money together to buy access to a Rangers press conference I would have one question for
Steven Gerrard as the new league season prepares to start next weekend.
But I wouldn’t want to cut into the grandchildren’s inheritance or use the State pension for a purpose for which it was not intended.
Under the circumstances it’s cheaper to arrive at your own conclusions. So I will.
I think the defending champions could retain their league title by an even bigger margin than the 25 points that separated them from Celtic last season.
Part of the reason is the abject failure of clubs likeand to make anything like a telling contribution to the competitive nature of the Premiership.
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Their wins in the Europa Conference qualifiers last week were commendable but can’t camouflage years of under-achievement on the domestic front.
Hibs boss Jack Ross deservedly signed a contract extension last week that will keep him at Easter Road until 2024.
He marked the occasion with one comment that caught the eye.
Referring to Hibs, he said: “We are rightly recognised as a big club and always have to back that up with what we do on the pitch.”
Really? Last seasonbinned manager Neil Lennon after a series of unacceptable results and performances. They signed one bad player after another to the dismay of the Celtic fans.
And the wilder element of the support indulged in scenes of violent outrage outside Celtic Park in retaliation for the ineptitude of the team on the park and those who run the club.
Arsenal lose pre-season opener at Hibs
Arsenal's pre-season preparations got off to a losing start as they were beaten 2-1 by Hibernian at Easter Road. The Gunners, who included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Willian, Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in their starting line-up, were behind in the 21st minute as Martin Boyle pounced on goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo's error to hand Hibs the lead.
Yet Hibs contrived to finish 14 points behind them in the table and 39 points adrift of.
The last trophy won by Hibs was five years ago. The one before that was nine years earlier.
The game’s economics conspire against any club other than Celtic or Rangers winning the league, possibly for ever more since it has been 36 years since the title was won by a club outside of Glasgow.
But Aberdeen have the third largest budget in the top flight and could also be doing with having a long, hard look at themselves.
They have produced less than they should be achieving in the grand scheme of things.
Their last trophy win was eight years ago and they finished last season a colossal 46 points behind Rangers. They might as well have been in a different division and in more competitive times they would have been. Both Hibs and Aberdeen are much loved and well supported but the fans’ devotion has not been repaid by success. Big clubs do more.
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None of this is to detract in any way from the exceptional nature of Rangers’ feat in going through the entire league season without
suffering a defeat, home or away.
All of this is to suggest Gerrard’s team could exist in an even roomier world of their own in the season ahead.
Their biggest complication could come from within if there is any resting on laurels or relaxation of attitude and application because the job of stopping Celtic from winning 10 In A Row has been done.
Other than that, there looks, on the face of it, to be not a lot to trouble them.
The league has yet to start but I suspect the majority already know how it will finish next May. In normal times the business of forecasting what will happen before the first of 38 games could be dismissed as a futile exercise.
A year ago who could have foreseen Celtic signing a Greek goalkeeper incapable ofsaving anything?
Or bringing in an English Premier League defender who had to be left out of the team on the grounds of damage limitation?
To say nothing of assembling a succession of strikers who could not strike.
But now there are no powers of clairvoyancy required. This is a matter of transparency.
Celtic have too little time for their transition period to be completed within the lifetime of the season to come. Attempting to assimilate new players on the hoof never works.
Hibs and Aberdeen, until they prove differently, lack the substance and the credibility to have any influence over the progress of the championship.
Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen had 12 attempts at beating Rangers last season and none of them could do it. What’s changed?
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It is a huge night in European football for Scotland across two competitions. © All the latest from around the SPFL. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group) Four teams are in action with Celtic up against Czech side Jablonec and St Johnstone playing Turkish giants Galatasaray in Europa League qualifying, while in the Conference League, Aberdeen face Breidablik in Iceland and Hibs welcome Rijeka of Croatia to Easter Road.In turn all four will now play their league games on Sunday.The transfer window still has nearly four weeks to run with teams still looking to shape their squad.